Sunday, April 24, 2011
But not always!
Sometimes I receive (drum roll, please….) hate mail!
I answer my mail. (Although I am SO behind right now because of my deadline and it’s making me a little anxious.) I especially love the letters that aren’t assigned by teachers because I know the motivation to write to me is pure. (Even if they want me to send an autographed picture.) (Or an autographed book.) (Or to get a role in the upcoming Sammy Keyes movie [which is NOT in the works at this time, and which I could NOT do anyway, even if it were]. It’s all okay because I know that they’re legitimately enthused.)
(BTW, and just for the record, I am also NOT a bookstore, so don’t get any funny ideas.)
(Do we have enough parentheticals here?)
Anyway, I also appreciate the “assignment” letters—the ones where a language arts teacher has the students write their favorite author and tell them what they liked (and maybe didn’t like) about a particular book. (There must be a nationwide language arts teacher template for these letters because the structure is very often the same. It starts with something about the student—their hobbies and their pets and their families and what sports or clubs or TV shows they like—then moves on to what they liked about your story, and then asks you—even though they’re sure you’re very busy—to answer their list of questions [which can range from one to a hundred depending (usually) on whether a boy or a girl is writing.])
Double anyway, I LOVE the teachers who have their students include a self addressed stamped envelope for the reply because when you get hundreds of these like I do it makes it SO much easier (not to mention cost-reducing) if there’s a SASE. (Publishing reality: If I get 40 cents for every paperback book that sells, and it costs me 44 cents [and rising] in postage alone to reply to an assignment…well, you can understand many authors’ reluctance to write back.)
But I do write back (even if deadlines waylay me sometimes) because I remind myself that if I was the kid writing and I never heard back from my favorite-author-in-the-whole-wide-world, well, I’d be disappointed.
(Even if it was an assignment my teacher made me do.)
Sometimes a kid who’s been given an assignment will write that they weren’t wild about my book. Fine. Fair enough. So I figure that they don’t really mean it when they say to please write back. I mean, they didn’t really like my writing, so why ask for more, right? They’re just trying to finish working the formula their teacher gave them for writing an author.
One of the two “hate mails” I received this week sort of falls in this “dreaded assignment” category. The poor kid just didn’t get Flipped, hated the two points of view, hated the “boringness” of it, hated the chick on the cover. This student didn’t pull punches either. BAM-BAM-BAM! They let me have it. And then I got a litany of things I could do to make the book better. BAM-BAM-BAM!
Like I’m going to start over and publish it again?
But then, in closing, this student asked me to please-please-please write back.
Cracked me up.
The other message was more along the lines of true hate—something I don’t get much of to tell you the truth. But this woman did not like the way Swear to Howdy began (I swear to howdy it’s hilarious, but obviously this woman does not have my sense of humor. And obviously she’s not a teenage boy.)
Even though this book has generated some amazing fan mail, she said that after reading the first few pages she wanted to return the book but instead did the world a service by shredding it.
(I think we can all feel a little safer tonight.)
Now, there was a time I would have written these haters back. There was a time I would have presented a defense. I don’t like to be misunderstood, or have my work misunderstood.
And nobody likes to feel hated.
But you know what? I finally get that there are people in this world who will never like you, no matter what you do or how much you try.
(And you double-know-what? There are some people who if they did like me I’d be worried. Like, what kind of a jerk am I that that jerk likes me?)
The same thing applies to your art—there’s just no pleasing everybody.
What it boils down to is acceptance.
I accept that not everyone’s going to like me.
I accept that not everyone’s going to like my work.
The best defense is to just let it go.